Daily news podcasts are an increasingly important format for attracting daily audiences, building habit and loyalty, and driving subscription income. They’re also often a lifeline during times of crisis, as illustrated by the success of The Daily podcast during the coronavirus pandemic. This report takes a country-based look at developments in this fast-moving space and examines how public service broadcasters, commercial publishers and start-ups are using them to reach listeners.
The first to take advantage of the new digital possibilities, US publishers have established an array of different daily news podcasts, ranging from the long, extended chat formats pioneered by The Daily to New York Times-inspired deep-dives, and short bulletins for smart speakers. Our research suggests there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but that a strong focus on audience needs and fast-changing listening habits is essential.
This report takes a country-based look and hears from a range of publishers about their motivations, strategies and challenges. We also explore a number of case studies, including a series of podcasts that are a part of NPR’s ‘daily news’ portfolio. In particular, we see how the weekly round-up podcast Consider This is a key element of NPR’s strategy for reaching a wider and younger audience.
In Europe, where the daily news podcast scene is less mature, we hear how a number of public service broadcasters are taking an agile approach. Swedish Radio (SR) has developed its popular news brand Ekot into two separate podcast feeds, one with longer and in-depth episodes, the other with a daily short bulletin for smart speakers. This has allowed the organisation to focus on delivering what its audiences want and still attract loyal listeners.
For many public service broadcasters, and commercial publishers pursuing subscription business models, daily news podcasts are seen as a key way to drive audience growth and reduce churn. The growth in popularity of The Daily podcast and the emergence of a number of dedicated news and current affairs shows has highlighted the potential for this genre to boost subscriber numbers, particularly among younger audiences.
For this reason, many public service broadcasters and a few private-sector publishers are starting new daily news podcasts or repackaging existing content as a daily briefing. These podcasts may be ad supported or, as with the case of The Daily and Today in Focus, a paid-for subscription show. The new content is aimed at a younger audience and has been designed to compete with the likes of BuzzFeed, The Verge and Slate’s Morning Edition. However, some are still struggling to find a sustainable model. This is a crucial issue, and it’s not clear what the answer will be. For now, most are relying on their audience’s resilience and willingness to continue listening through difficult times. Many are redeploying advertising budgets that had been paused or cancelled during the pandemic, and are now able to report higher levels of subscription income than before. Some, such as RTÉ, are reviving their long-running local news programmes.